Question: How do I read nutrition labels?

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Nutrition labels are confusing but don’t fret, you can figure them out.

The new nutrition labels have been clarified to be less confusion but you need to understand the basics to comprehend the labels. Reading labels can be tricky and it is easy to misread them and over-consume. Consumers are becoming more health-conscious and knowledgeable. To counter this, food manufacturers use misleading language to convince people to buy more processed and unhealthy products.

Food labeling regulations are complex and are not meant to be easy to read. The complicity makes the labels harder for consumers to understand. This post will hopefully help you learn to read food labels so that you can differentiate between mislabeled junk and healthier food. You can easily overeat if you do not fully understand the labeling.

Sample Label

I am going to divid the label in three parts, TOP, MIDDLE, and BOTTOM. The tops ends with the horizontal line below calories. The MIDDLE is the part from calories to they thick line before the vitamins. The last or BOTTOM part is the vitamins and minerals.

TOP Portion of the Label

1. Serving Size and Portions Per Package

  • Serving size is the amount you should eat each time you consume a product. It can be in grams, ounces, or cups.
  • The total number of servings in the package.  
  • The nutritional content applies to the serving size, so if the serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat, and other nutrients than what is listed on the label.  

2. Total Calories

  • The total calorie count is the amount of energy found in a single serving.
  • The calories come from a combination of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
  • Alcohol and sugar alcohol can also be burned energy.

MIDDLE Portion on the Label

3. Percent Daily Values

  • This part is very confusing but you can use it as a guide of how a macronutrient from that food might fit in your plans.
  • It is based on a daily intake of a total of 2000 calories. It may contribute more if you are taking in fewer calories for weight loss.
  • A food item with a 10 percent daily value of fat provides 10 percent of the total fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day should eat.  
  • You should aim for low levels of sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
  • Aim for higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

BOTTOM Portion of the Label

  • Contains the vitamins and minerals that you need to ruction efficiently.
  • Lower levels are a measure of how empty the calories are.

Tips to Assist Better Nutrition:

  • Eating less saturated fat, sugars, and sodium may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. 
  • High fiber consumption is linked to satiety and less obesity.
  • Saturated fat and trans fat may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease. 
  • Most high-sugar foods are empty calories that provide little more than calories.
  • Potassium has been tied to better health and lower blood pressure. Be careful of potassium if you have liver failure or take certain medications.
  • Whole foods that are less processed are better. Sugars are highly processed. High fiber foods tend to be less processed.

Macronutrient Ratios Are key!

You know about calories, but it also is important to balance out those macronutrients, and there no better way than to understand the additional nutritional labels.

  • Fat: Watch the saturated fat, but fat is fat when it comes to burning those fatty acids for energy. That being said, it is a dense energy source, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated are healthier.
  • Protein: You can make the other major sources of energy, and this is the only one you MUST have in your diet to survive (sort of). Eat 3-4 moderate portions of beans, dairy such as cheese and milk, fish, lean meat, nuts, nut butter, peas, poultry, seeds, soy, fish, eggs, and yogurt.  Plant proteins should be a part of your daily diet.
  • Carbohydrates: There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber. The last one is calorie-free, and you should eat as much as possible. Eat whole-grain bread, cereals, fruits, nuts, pasta rice, seeds, and vegetables to get more fiber. The kets is unprocessed or less processed foods.  Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, occur naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose) or come from refined sources such as table sugar (sucrose), or corn syrup. They are easily digestible and often forms of empty calories. You do nto need them.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is an empty forum of calories. Just avoid consumption of this source fo calories if you are trying to lose weight.

The bottom line: READ THE LABELS and KNOW WHAT YOU ARE EATING!!!!!! The best way to avoid being misled by product labels is to understand and read the labels. You need to try to avoid processed foods altogether.  Whole food is the ideal way to avoid processing because they don’t need an ingredients list. If you decide to buy packaged foods, be sure to sort out the junk from the higher-quality products with the helpful tips in this article.

We recommend the following Kindle book on nutrition facts and labels:
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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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